Sour Grapes?

A Parisian ‘bad boy’ of wine uncorks a few barbs at the French

Every once in a while, someone a whole continent away (who is well known there) says the same thing that you’ve been preaching. And it becomes pretty hard to resist saying “I told you so.”

In the last couple of years or so in these pages, we’ve been advising serious wine drinkers against buying most high-end Burgundy, Bordeaux, and California reds and whites, mostly because soaring prices have produced some lackadaisical and stale winemaking, resulting in many uninteresting or even downright bad wines.

So now here comes Olivier Magny, the new Parisian bad boy of wine. He also runs one of the newest successful wine bars and school in Paris, called Ô Chateau, where you can get 40 wines by the glass and hundreds more by the bottle.

In an article in the May issue of Food & Wine Magny says the interest in wine among the French has collapsed so much that they are mimicking American eating and drinking habits. “They all want to act like New Yorkers,” he says.

About a year ago, we quoted a French winemaker now making sparkling wines in California as saying exactly this. Americans, he added, are more curious about how things really work — for example, what happens for parts to come together to make a car go. We have more natural curiosity.

And Magny concurs. He says Americans actually know more about wine.

“In my experience Americans study wine more. And contrary to what people think, French DNA does not come with genes for wine knowledge.

“The French eat more pizza per capita than any other country. Paris is Diet Coke, kebab shops, and hamburgers,” Magny says.

Magny also talks about quality wines and value in wines. First, the Loire.

“It’s like the El Dorado of incredible wines at amazing prices,” he says. “Places like Mont-Louis, Vouvray, Muscadet.” (Muscadet is the name of a wine, not a place, something a Parisian wine seller really should know. Ah, those French!)

We’ve been saying much the same, urging readers to check out Loire wines, many of which are available here. And not just white wines from the region. The reds from places like Bourgueil, Saumur, and Chinon are stunningly good, and most are in the price range of $15-$20. In whites, the best known is Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine, along with Sancerre, Quincy, and others.

Magny was also asked: What was the biggest mistake Americans make in France with wine?

“Falling for what I call the house wine myth,” he says. “It’s this idea that you come to France and order the house wine … and it’s amazing, the best you’ve ever had.

“If you go to France and ask for the house wine you are 200 percent busted as an American, and they are going to serve you a random bottle they bought for one euro.”

Oh, those rotten Freedom Fryers. Follow a little of this advice and the French are, well, so busted.